Max Chilton adjusting to life outside F1, embracing Indy Lights opportunity


LONG BEACH, Calif. – Life has changed a fair bit for Max Chilton in the last few months.

The Englishman is, like his Carlin Racing teammate Ed Jones and team principal Trevor Carlin, fully embracing his new opportunity racing in North America.

Yes, his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races this year are on a race-to-race basis, but the plan now is that the ex-Marussia Formula 1 driver will be continuing on for the balance of the season on non-conflicting weekends.

Initially, when Chilton first announced he’d be taking on the Nissan LMP1 program in the FIA World Endurance Championship, it didn’t appear as though he’d be able to do both.

Chilton has raced at Monaco several times previously, twice in F1 and before that in GP2.

While many have dubbed Long Beach “the Monaco of the U.S.,” Chilton wasn’t quite so quick to bestow the honor.

“Yeah it’s my first time here and first time to L.A. as well,” Chilton told MotorSportsTalk during Thursday’s media lunch activities ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.

“I have done the West Coast before, at Laguna, but never here. I have watched a couple of on-boards and done stuff on the sim. I’m not comparing it here to Monaco, but it’s definitely nice weather and a nice environment.”

Between testing work and the opening weekend in St. Petersburg, where Chilton had the pace but not the luck on race day (best finish of fourth in Sunday’s Round 2), he has adapted to the new Dallara IL15-Mazda Indy Lights car.

For a development car, he does think highly of it.

“Yeah it was a bit of a shock to the system initially,” Chilton said. “I’m used to turbos from F1 last year, but it initially was like going back to F3. Still when you know you have it dialed in, you know it’s a good car. I’m looking forward to more races.”

Chilton also spoke highly of racing in America for further opportunities this year. At the moment, he’s bouncing between the U.S. and the U.K. as his Nissan LMP1 commitments have now featured increased testing here in the U.S., at Bowling Green.

“Racing in the States is definitely different from the rest of the world,” Chilton said. “You’re slightly more relaxed. It’s good, fun racing. Everyone’s here because they love it.

“It’s a nice change coming out to race here.”

For now, Chilton is dovetailing the Indy Lights and Nissan roles, although he’s optimistic Carlin’s future IndyCar ambitions will play dividends for him racing in the series in 2016.

“This is another good focus because Trevor wants to get into IndyCar next year,” Chilton said. “There might be an opportunity there.”

You can watch Chilton and the rest of the Indy Lights field’s race from Long Beach at 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN.

Roger Penske discusses flying tire at Indy 500 with Dallara executives: ‘We’ve got to fix that’


INDIANAPOLIS – Roger Penske spoke with Dallara executives Monday morning about the loose tire that went flying over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway catchfence and into a Turn 2 parking lot.

The left-rear wheel from Kyle Kirkwood’s No. 27 Dallara-Honda was sheared off in a collision at speed as Kirkwood tried to avoid the skidding No. 6 Dallara-Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 183 of the 107th Indianapolis 500.

No one seriously was hurt in the incident (including Kirkwood, whose car went upside down and slid for several hundred feet), though an Indianapolis woman’s Chevy Cruze was struck by the tire. The Indy Star reported a fan was seen and released from the care center after sustaining minor injuries from flying debris in the crash.

During a photo shoot Monday morning with Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden at the IMS Yard of Bricks, Penske met with Dallara founder and owner Gian Paolo Dallara and Dallara USA CEO Stefano dePonti. The Italian company has been the exclusive supplier of the current DW12 chassis to the NTT IndyCar series for 11 years.

“The good news is we didn’t have real trouble with that tire going out (of the track),” Penske, who bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2020, told a few reporters shortly afterward. “I saw it hit. When it went out, I saw we were OK. I talked to the Dallara guys today. We’re going to look at that, but I guess the shear (force) from when (Rosenqvist’s) car was sitting, (Kirkwood’s car) went over and just that shear force tore that tether. Because we have tethers on there, and I’ve never seen a wheel come off.

“That to me was probably the scariest thing. We’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to fix that so that doesn’t happen again.”

Asked by NBC Sports if IndyCar would be able to address it before Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix or before the next oval race at Iowa Speedway, Penske said, “The technical guys should look at it. I think the speed here, a couple of hundred (mph) when you hit it vs. 80 or 90 or whatever it might be, but that was a pinch point on the race.”

In a statement released Monday to WTHR and other media outlets, IndyCar said that it was “in possession of the tire in Sunday’s incident and found that the tether did not fail. This is an isolated incident, and the series is reviewing to make sure it does not happen again. IndyCar takes the safety of the drivers and fans very seriously. We are pleased and thankful that no one was hurt.”

IndyCar provided no further explanation for how the wheel was separated from the car without the tether failing.

IndyCar began mandating wheel suspension tethers using high-performance Zylon material after a flying tire killed three fans at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a May 1, 1999 race. Three fans also were struck and killed by a tire at Michigan International Speedway during a July 26, 1998 race.

The IndyCar tethers can withstand a force of more than 22,000 pounds, and the rear wheel tethers were strengthened before the 2023 season.